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HSE sounds warning over major incidents

Industry has become lax in its attempts to avoid onsite construction disasters and risks mass
fatalities, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) construction chief inspector Stephen Williams .

Speaking ahead of his Capita Symonds safety lecture at the ICE today, Williams, the man responsible for overseeing health and safety on all UK construction sites told NCE he was worried that a fatal incident was just around the corner.

“I’m slightly nervous that industry has taken its eye off the ball,” he said. “Over the recent couple of years we have seen substantial fires, high-profile and spectacular tower crane
collapses, scaffold collapses, and building collapses. All of those had potential to kill more than one person.”

Williams added that major firms were the industry leaders in health and safety, but there was no room for complacency.

“We need to really focus on the events that have had the potential to kill tens of people.”

Williams was speaking after the HSE last week launched a campaign to target safe working among small and medium-sized contractors.

This campaign followed the annual safety statistics for 2006/7, which showed there were 77 fatal accidents in construction, the highest total for five years and a 28% rise on the previous year.

The HSE lays the blame for this rise squarely on the shoulders of small firms operating in the home refurbishment sector, claiming last week that nearly one in three construction refurbishment sites put workers’ lives at risk.

RECENT DISASTROUS COLLAPSES

- April 2006 scaffold collapse at Jury’s Inn hotel, Milton Keynes, kills one worker.

- September 2006 two men are killed by the collapse of a saddle jib tower crane on a Barratt site in Battersea, south London.

- January 2007 a luffing jib crane collapses at Liverpool’s Elysian Fields development, killing one worker.

- February 2007 an entire building collapses during refurbishment work in Whitechapel, east London.
No reportted injuries.

- June 2007 partial collapse of a Westminster building undergoing refurbishment. One worker was badly injured and had his leg amputated, while another suffered minor injuries.

- June 2007 a tower crane collapses in Croydon, south London, with a driver suffering
a broken leg.

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